I love my Daddy. Present tense, though Daddy passed away more than 20 years ago. In many ways Daddy’s gentle accepting ways prepared me for the love of my heavenly father. Thought I would share some of my Daddy stories here. Hope you enjoy them.
“They look like they’re having a rough time,” Daddy whispered, pushing away his plate and nodding toward a couple that looked younger than my parents (farmers I guessed from his bib overalls) at the most remote table in the diner. I was 12-years-old and almost worshiped my Daddy, so I had turned to better see what – or who – had captured the attention of my gentle giant. While I observed the couple, a dark-haired tearful woman and tight-lipped angry-looking man, stabbing their forks at their food between brief serious glances and sad shakes of their heads, I began to wonder what their troubled situation could be. Our perky blond waitress interrupted my thoughts as she approached our table, responding to Daddy’s uplifted hand. “Did you want something else?” she asked, though he’d already expressed satisfaction with our burger-baskets and lemonade.
A whispered instruction from behind Daddy’s hand produced a rapidly disappearing waitress, and aroused my curiosity, effectively halting the last catsup-laden French-fry on its way to my mouth. That was the quickest I’d seen her move since we’d arrived. What ever had he said? Eagerly I sat up straighter, meeting his eye and expecting an explanation. “Later,” he said. The single word was spoken quietly, and I sighed impatiently, though the feeling subsided as quickly as it came. His word was commanding, but it was promising too, for Daddy always kept his word, and there was no time to waste. A visit to the diner after a ride to the paper mill was a rare treat and there was much to see and memorize for who knew if we would come again, or when. The sounds of the big men’s boots on the wooden floor, the ching of the big gold cash-register, the sight of neat checkered tablecloths, each topped with a canning jar and wild flowers, and silver condiment trays with tiny packets of jellies held equal fascination with the clothing and hairstyles of the employees and customers.
A yellow slip with four red capital letters spelling “PAID” moved across my vision as the waitress passed it to Daddy’s waiting hands, one now holding the pen that usually rested, ever ready, in his breast pocket. “Give me a minute,” he said, dismissing the waitress. Fascinated, I fought a sense of guilt for snooping as Daddy’s hand curved to hide some brief hand movements. His chocolate-brown eyes met mine in a look of somber love. “You wonder what I wrote.” He chuckled then with the obvious, but his eyes had that more-to-the-story look, as he turned the yellow slip face down and slid it toward me. “I will show you,” he softly promised, his weathered hand still covering most of the slip as he continued “but with the knowledge will come responsibility.” I knew my Daddy would never ask anything of me that would harm me and I quickly answered with a promise, keeping my voice similarly serious to his. His eyes watered as our glances met (he later told me from my obvious complete trust in him), but they twinkled too, as he said, “Don’t look so worried – it’s easy – and even fun.” And then he flipped over the receipt.
Above the red stamp and over the itemized receipt he’d written two lines “Honesty concerns all.” and “Do what you wish others to do.” At the bottom, beneath the word PAID, he had printed “pass it on”.
The waitress picked up that receipt as she handed Daddy ours, then nodded in agreement when Daddy whispered that she must not tell who paid their bill. Daddy and I walked out silently, stealing secret glances and giving sly smiles to one another. He knew it almost killed me with wanting to turn around and watch the couple’s reaction as the waitress passed us in the opposite direction, headed for that corner table. Determined to honor Daddy’s secret trust. I waited until we’d gotten outside and into the truck before turning back to see the window framing the waitress walking away and the couple’s heads close together reading Daddy’s message.
The truck revved up and pulled away. Silent, poignant miles slipped behind us as I pondered the deeper meaning beyond when in life I would be able to pay someone’s bill. Finally concluding aloud, “You meant pass on not just money, right?” Daddy nodded, and glanced over, approvingly. I basked in his love as he segued into examples of those who had touched his life and thoughtfully answered my queries as we made our way home, our secret connecting us as never before.
My childish questions of “How will I know?” and “What could I write?” were answered simply. The vision of Daddy saying, “You will know – in here” as he touched his chest, came back to me years later. Living hundreds of miles away, I called Daddy each time I had a pass-it-on story. Time flew as we would whisper and giggle conspiratorially about our adventures – in Kentucky, a young couple with a crying baby; in Indiana, a pastor and his wife, discouraged about the slow start of a new church (the waiter obviously knew the couple); in another state, two young women with babies apparently celebrating something, soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen and often as not, there was an older gentleman that reminded me of Daddy or a young mother that reminded Daddy of his own daughter. We always closed our time wondering together how things played out in the various lives and circumstances we’d witnessed, hoping that we’d been able to play a small part in encouraging them, and knowing that in attempting to bless others we ourselves had been blessed.
Though I know that physically my Daddy’s now ‘gone’ from me, when traveling recently with a friend, I felt the “call” – and noticed her eyebrows rise as she observed my quiet conversation with the waiter, and the waiter’s questioning nod toward a soldier and his family.
“What was that about?” she asked, leaning in and obviously sensing a secret. “Feeling my Daddy’s presence today,” I answered thoughtfully, “and passing it on.”